Translated by Erin Grace
I want to try new challenges, and I’m interested to see your reactions
“Dejavu.” Directly translated from French, it means “already seen.” It’s a word that describes the experience of feeling that a particular experience has already happened, like something that has happened in a dream.
“Dejavu” is the name of Kumi’s 9th album, the first since she released “UNIVERSE” last year. Kumi, an artist who loves to take on new challenges, is just breaking into the 11th year since her debut.
“I think of deja vu as giving the impression of a dream that’s come true; as they say in French, ‘Tu as deja vu’ (in English “You have already seen”), which means ‘You’ve seen bad times like these before, and you can overcome them again.’ The image of a woman carrying heavy burdens and overcoming high hurdles is something that I sang about in my previous single, ‘POP DIVA,’ and that it resounds in my heart that I’ve overcome difficult experiences during these past 10 years myself. I’m also thinking about the image I want for my next tour. I want there to be the impression that you’ve seen it before, but also the feeling that you’re seeing it for the first time. I want everyone to experience the new Koda Kumi in this magical space where dreams come true.”
The title track is of course the chosen song for this album, and whenever a new album is released artists always have tour preparations in mind.
“This is the song I’ve had in mind while thinking about this most recent live. Although my last tour, ‘UNIVERSE,’ was held mostly in major arenas, I want to go places I’ve never been for this tour, including a hall tour. I’ve always thought about performing in a smaller space. I don’t just want to climb up and down a set of stairs like in most Hall Tours, I really want to do this live Koda Kumi-style with furious dancing, and more and more dance tunes, and R&B style.”
Music that expresses the sense of the improbability and impossibility implied by the words “deja vu.”
This album includes the 11 greatest songs of Kumi’s career, including the sexy dance tunes “Lollipop” and “POP DIVA,” the universally loved ballads “Suki de, Suki de, Suki de” and “Anata Dake Ga,” as well as newly recorded songs. To commemorate her 10th anniversary, Kumi held a nationwide tour, a stadium live, a Billboard live, and a Tokyo Dome live, so an album consisting of 11 favorites as well as newly recorded songs is a surprise. Moreover, this album isn’t just good songs; it also has a clear line running through it all. That “line” ties together the things that represent this new phase in Kumi’s career. Through focusing on the core R&B, it’s easy to show her nature to people who can’t know her personally. On the other hand, as you can see from the charts and sales numbers, she creates accessible J-pop and ballads that can make anyone cry. But with this album, she once again has in mind club music and J-pop, radical R&B and hip hop that doesn’t discriminate across age or gender lines but instead pushes co-existence and co-prosperity. She fuses catchy and colorful music with an edgy and stimulating sound. This is certainly music that expresses the sense of the improbability and impossibility implied by the words “deja vu.”
“At the end of my 10th anniversary, I started to think about how I could break away from Western-style R&B. But, of course, it’s still important to do music that people can sing in karaoke, and I still want to do R&B music that expresses my unique worldview. The point is, although it’s greedy (laugh), when I thought about how I could reconcile these two ideas I decided that I should try to create a catchy melody with a cool sound. For example, ‘Hey baby!’ the theme song for the anime ‘Crayon Shinchan,’ has a pop melody that anyone could sing in karaoke, but the arrangement and sound are really cool. On ‘Dejavu,’ the first half is dance tunes and the last half is easy-to-sing pop songs that are broken into two parts. This has presented me with new challenges, and I’m interested to see everyone’s reactions.”
There is a saying in France, “He who does not act with courage laments his own bad luck.” As a woman who isn’t afraid of failure, acts with courage, and constantly takes further steps into the future, this is the biggest message that she means to convey to her listeners.
Interview: Nagahori Atsuo